WITH the game on the line, University of the East coach Boycie Zamar didn't have to think long to decide on who to give the ball to.
Roi Sumang asked for it.
“Sabi niya, ‘Coach, bigay mo sa akin.’ That’s heart. Even in the second round of last year, lagi niyang kinukuha (ang bola),” Zamar recalled of the Warriors’ final huddle in their UAAP men’s basketball game against National University Bulldogs Saturday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
“Sabi ko, ‘Don’t make a fluke this time and make it real,’” Zamar remembered telling his star player.
Sumang didn’t let his coach down.
The audacious 22-year-old guard from Tondo, isolated at the top of the three-point arc against Bobby Ray Parks, hit a pull-up three-pointer from way, way out then completed a rare four-point play off Parks' foul to seal the Warriors' thrilling 71-67 victory over the Bulldogs.
Still in jubilant mode after the game, Sumang, who has seen one too many losses in his time as UE's top gun, got lost in the moment when asked about his game-winner.
“Basta hiningi ko kay coach ‘yung last possession kasi alam kong nangigigil kami sa panalo noong first game," said Sumang, who finished with a game-high 19 points. "Ayoko ng matalo. Sawang-sawa na ako matalo.”
Sumang said pulling up for a jumper and getting a clear look at a basket wasn't easy, especially with the athletic, long-armed Parks hounding him for much of the game.
“Sobrang hirap, malaki kasi siya, mabilis gumalaw,” Sumang said of Parks. “Second half, buti maganda ‘yung ginawa ko.”
Shortly after converting the game-winner, Sumang celebrated with former UE star Paul Lee, who was watching at courtside, as the two Tondo neighbors exchanged high fives amid the pandemonium at the Big Dome.
Sumang admitted he idolizes Lee, last year’s PBA Rookie of the Year while playing for Rain or Shine who took a young Sumang under his wings during their time together at UE.
“Idol ko talaga siya. Siya ‘yung umalalay sa akin. Minsan nagtatanong ako sa kanya,” said Sumang.
That Lee was there not just to see his moment of glory but also to celebrate with him was icing on Sumang's cake.
“Buti nandoon siya," he said. "Na-inspired ako na nanood siya.”